This last weekend, Warren Buffett and his Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. shareholders met at the “Woodstock for capitalists,” the 2017 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting. Basking in Buffett’s glow, we here are Edgy decided to watch the HBO documentary “Becoming Warren Buffett,” and extrapolate as much useful business wisdom as we could.
In Becoming Warren Buffett, we follow an Omaha kid with a strong moral core and a knack for numbers as he rises to become one of the richest men in history. With his wealth (over $70 billion USD net worth) and his pervasive morality, Buffet eventually makes the largest philanthropic gift in history. The documentary follows the evolution of a Nebraska kid to one of the most respected and influential men in American history, all the while introducing you to the people that most aided his growth.
Each year, when the Berkshire Hathway Annual Meeting rolls around, we stop researching the latest tech and check in to see what the real money is doing. If you want a detailed recap of this year’s meeting, click here.What are the 17 best things Warren Buffett has ever said? Edgy has them all.Click To Tweet
From the HBO documentary, We’ve pulled the 17 best Quotes from Warren Buffett, the “Oracle of Omaha:”
“If you’re emotional about investment, you’re not going to do well. You may have all these feelings about a stock, the stock has no feelings about you.” – Warren Buffett
“Focus has always been a huge part of my personality. If I get interested in a subject, I get really interested. If I get interested in a subject, I want to read about it. I want to talk about it and I want to meet people that are involved in it.” – Warren Buffett
Takeaways: This one gives new meaning to his famous, diehard “compound interest” (quasi-moral) principle. If motivation is the engine, then genuine interest in something is the fuel. Things are easier to attack and accomplish if you want to, and if you’re interested in something, you’ll certainly want to pursue it. Interest leads to research which leads to networking which links to backlinks . . . success is built on a few connected centered around an initial interest.
On Choosing a Career
“The important thing is to look for the job you would take if you didn’t need a job. ” – Warren Buffett
Takeaways: This seems to be what Warren did, and given his particular skills set, intelligence and style, it worked out for him. He has a certain brand of confidence muted by a genuine gentle cautiousness. Buffett lets his interests lead him in is work, and admits while it’s not a formula for 100% success rates, consistency and adaptability over time are crucial.
On Choosing Breakfast (and “the Commute”)
“…on the way to the office, it’s all of a 5-minute drive, been doing it for 54 years. One of the good things about this 5-minute drive is that there’s a McDonald’s, so I’ll pick up something.” – Warren Buffett
Takeaways: He doesn’t skip breakfast, matter how you feel about his choice. He’s no doubt a practical man, an all-American and a creature of habit.
Depending on how the market is shaping up that day, Buffett allows himself one of three breakfast menu options, the most expensive of which doesn’t even add up to $4.00.
His morning routine does more than reiterate Buffett’s Down-to-Earth, no-frills lifestyle despite being one of the wealthiest people on the planet; it also pokes fun at the fact that on at least two separate occasions throughout the documentary, Buffett’s family laughs about how he doesn’t eat vegetables.
“I like to sit and think and I like to spend a lot of time doing that. Sometimes it’s pretty unproductive, but I find it enjoyable to think about business or investment problems. They’re easy, it’s the human problems that are the tough ones. Sometimes there aren’t any good answers to human problems; there is almost always a good answer with money.” – Warren Buffett
Takeaways: It’s not just about constantly being on the move, hustling and eating up stimuli; taking the time to digest all of the information we come across every day is just as crucial. When you stop to internalize what you’ve seen, done and learned, you start to be able to see patterns–what behaviors work, what strategies don’t and everything in between.
But at the Same Time…
“Life is a great movie to watch, but you don’t want to sleepwalk through life”. – Warren Buffett
“It’s a very strange thing, love: you can’t get rid of it. If you try to give it out you get more back. If you try to hang on to it, you lose it.” – Warren Buffett
On Running Away From Home
“Very interesting: my dad never really gave me hell about [running away from home], but he finally said ‘You can do better than this’ and just saying that, I mean, I felt I was letting him down, basically. So, In all ways, he was teaching me. He never taught by telling me things, he just taught by example. He had unlimited confidence in me, even when I screwed up. And that, that takes you a long, long way. The best gift I was ever given was to have the father that I had when I was born.” – Warren Buffett
Takeaway: If relationships are founded on trust, then they are enforced by mutual approval. Relationships – professional, romantic, familial, platonic alike – only function well if each person has clear expectations and trust that others will fulfill them.
On Finding Your Soulmate
“There were two turning points in my life: one when I came out of the womb and the other when I met Susie. I was a lopsided person, and she just stood there with a little watering can and nourished me.” – Warren Buffett
Takeaway: He didn’t do it alone, and he isn’t afraid to admit his shortcomings. He may not be such a social wizard, but is very sensitive in some way and does take criticism well.
“Celebration is part of making a group of people work well together.” – Charlie Munger
Takeaways: This is the point of the annual meeting. This isn’t just about company culture, either; it’s also the same sentiment that builds strong communities and networks.
By the way, Munger is the vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and Buffett’s self-described “partner.” Some call him the shrewder half of the two.
Have an Edge
“Defining what your game is, where you’re going to have an edge, is enormously important.” – Warren Buffett
Takeaways: Know your strengths and weaknesses, and know that they will change over time.
Right Place, Right Time
“I was genetically blessed with a certain wiring that is very useful in a highly developed market where there’s lots of chips on the table and I’m good at that game.” – Warren Buffett
Takeaways: He may be insinuating that at any other point in history (or the future), his particular genius may be useless. Or worse, disadvantageous. Genetic or personality traits may be part of the formula, but they are inexorably tied which the environment (nurture), which certainly influences your attempts and their outcomes in life on its own.
Circle of Competence
“Over the years, you develop a lot of filters, but I do know what I call my circle of competence so I stay within that circle and I don’t worry about things that are outside that circle.” – Warren Buffett
Takeaways: Then small-time writer William Faulkner gave the epic Ernest Hemingway some of his work to read: a manuscript on places and intrigue far outside the American South that Faulkner witnessed growing up. Faulkner asked Hemingway what he thought, and Hemingway famously said: “write the truest sentence you know.”
Luckily, Faulkner takes Hemingway’s advice and publishes our high school favorite and a classic of American literature, The Sound and the Fury. It worked for Faulkner, it works for Buffett: know thyself, and seek knowledge.
“The truth is, I’m here in my position as a matter of luck. When I was born in 1930, odds were probably 40 to 1 against me being born in the United States. I did win the ovarian lottery on that first day, and on top of that, I was male. Put that down as another 50/50 shot and now the odds are 80 to 1 against being born a male in the United States and it was enormously important in my whole life. To think that that makes me superior to anyone else as a human being is just… I can’t follow that line of reasoning.” – Warren Buffett
Takeaways: Being aware of your opportunities is the first step to not just being thankful for them, but to using them to your advantage. In his gentle, practical way, Buffett doesn’t necessarily boil his success down to chance; but he does chalk up his chances for success, or his platform to launch from, as a mix of right place, right time, right interests.
On Incremental Growth
“Never seemed like we were making that much progress on any one day, but compound interest just works”. – Warren Buffett
On Gender Equality
“The initial example is really my mother. She came from a generation where the main function of the wife was to help her husband in the job and my sisters are fully as smart as I am, they got better personalities than I do but they got the message a million different ways that their future was limited and I got the message that the sky is the limit and it wasn’t due to a lack of love or anything of the sort. It just, it was just the culture. On the other side of that, you could look at the flip side of that and say it’s quite encouraging because if you look at what this country accomplished only using half of its talent, just think of the potential for the future…we by some rather stupid decisions, essentially put half of our talent on the sidelines.” – Warren Buffett
Takeaway: Buffett tries to look at things objectively in understanding his own limitations. It’s not as if he could take sole responsibility for the “stupid decisions” of past (and present) generations, but all genders can see that we need everyone to contribute their talents toward a constructive future.
On Investing Long-term
“They don’t buy it with the idea that they’re going to sell it next week. I think most people buy it with the intent of holding on to it for a lifetime like most people buy a farm or an apartment house. At Berkshire, everybody gets the same information. From the comprehensive annual report. We don’t meet with the analysts, I’m not interested in what an analyst thinks about Berkshire, I’m interested in what the owners of Berkshire think about Berkshire.” – Warren Buffett
Takeaway: Ownership and participation are two sides of the same coin, and integral to a successful endeavor.